Egypt has announced receiving two Chinese-developed satellites for its newly-created space programme.
The country joins a growing list of African and Middle Eastern nations, including Namibia, Zambia and Djibouti, looking to establish a presence in space.
The prototypes were delivered to the Egyptian Space Agency’s Satellite Assembly Integration and Test Centre (AIT) in Space City, Cairo.
Egypt, with the aid of its Belt and Road partners, will become the first country on the African continent able to test, assemble and launch satellites, securing its position as a prominent player in the ever-more competitive industry, according to Chinese Ambassador, Liao Liqiang.
The pair of satellites, coupled with a flight model, form part of the Egyptian Space Agency’s $142 million MisrSat-2 project, which Egyptian researchers and specialists from China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation have been collaborating on for three months.
The transfer of technology and expertise from Chinese aerospace experts was invaluable to Egypt’s space aspirations, said the Minister of International Cooperation, Rania al-Mashat.
China and several other superpowers, including Russia and the US, has recognised the myriad of investment opportunities available on the continent, said Nigerian analyst, Temidayo Oniosun, in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
Africa’s space industry, although very much in its infancy, is estimated to generate revenue close to $20 billion every year, with that figure only expected to grow.
Along with Egypt, China has bilateral trade agreements in place with 27 other African countries that cover space and satellite technology – more than any other country. China has previously assisted Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan and Ethiopia launch communication satellites.
China’s interest in space cooperation on the continent was “another layer” of its Belt and Road economic initiative, according to senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, Dr John Calabrese.
The high-resolution imaging provided by satellites would offer many benefits, such as the ability to monitor crops and water consumption from space, helping shore-up food and water security.
Egypt, which sits at the confluence of Africa, the Middle East and Europe, was strategically located to be a hub for satellite assembly in the region, Rorisang Moyo, an independent South African-based Zimbabwean space industry analyst, said.
According to Moyo, China’s strategy on the continent is to get behind the African space race as early as possible.
The MisrSat-2 project is expected to be completed later this year and launched from China in October, according to the South China Morning Post.